By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Three weeks after Myanmar’s army effectively ended Myanmar’s ten-year-old fledgling democracy, protesters again gathered on Wednesday in Yangon. It is the 19th day people have gathered since the first large protest on 6 February.
Myanmar’s Bishops voiced their concern on Sunday, one day after a 16-year-old boy was killed in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. “The heart-rending scenes of youth dying in the streets wound the conscience of a nation… The sadness of parents burying their children has to stop. Mothers’ tears are never a blessing to any nation”. Healing can begin, they stressed, “with the release of detained leaders”.
The citizens of Myanmar are accompanied by women religious “fighting and protesting to end military dictatorship, to get justice and peace”. One of these Sisters, a Sister of St Joseph of the Apparition, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared her experience with Vatican News.
“On the first day of February, after our morning prayers, we came to know the sad news that our leaders were arrested. Some of us cried and we all were saddened. As soon as we finished our breakfast we start making adoration till midnight by turns.”
As the days unfolded, the Sisters began to understand their mission differently, but always in the paradigm of their charism.
“Our Congregation's charism is ‘Love’. Our mission is to show Love in different works of charity. Our Constitutions says ‘...fighting in the spirit of the Gospel against destitution and every kind of injustice...’ ”.
At first the sisters began to provide “snacks, coffee, juice” to the people who were taking to the streets. She confesses they were having a hard time finding the financial resources to continue providing this service. “Some donors began to offer us some help when they saw on Facebook what we were doing”, Sister says. “Even our smile is great support for the protesters”.
The Sisters have also taken part in two demonstrations in Yangon, standing and walking side-by-side their fellow citizens. “We surely understand that without demonstrating, the military dictatorship will never end. That is why we support the protesters as much as we can”.
Sister describes the mood in the country in terms both positive and negative.
She writes that a positive aspect is that even though Generation Z had never directly experienced the military dictatorship, they are now coming to realize “they are the leaders now in this revolution. They are full of zeal and creative”, Sister writes. She tells us that the young people “are exhausted” but they will not stop until “the military give up their power, because Myanmar's military power has been destroying our country for more than 60 years already”. However, Sister emphasizes, they are committed to the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).
Writing about the negative aspect, Sister says, “We are scared, worried, insecure and sometimes hopeless. During the night we are scared because the police and soldiers attack the activists, protest leaders, CDM officers and influencers during the night. More than 20,000 prisoners were released and the army paid them and ask them to set fires in the quarters. People from the quarters choose night watch among them to catch different kinds of night time terrorists”.
The sisters are determined to continue offering support to the cause, even though there may be unforeseen consequences. “During the day there are police everywhere. Although they are not causing us any harm, we are watched and we are alert during the night. No supporter or activist is safe in this time. They catch and arrest people at night everywhere in the country”.
All photos, courtesy of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition Facebook page. Used with permission.